Anyone seen the Pic on P43 of the May Model Railroader?

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Is that awesome or what? :cool: For those that haven't seen it yet, it's a shot on David Stewart's Appalachian and Ohio that appears to have been shot from the cab of an opposing locomotive in a yard setting. Man, digital imaging is cool stuff! I believe the photographer's name is Bob Sobol. He did an outstanding job.
Great photo ain't it I thought it might have been a model loco inside mock up like I've seen recently here of the inside window shot.
I like it!!

Absolutely Awesome! There is no way I would have known it was a photo of a model RR. I looked at that for about 20 minutes trying to find anything that said model.
As far as I'm concerned, any digital manipulation of a photo that adds elements that are missing or enhances ones that there is unacceptable in a modeling publication. I want to see the modeling, not what's in some some hack's imagination. As far as I'm concerned, digital enhancement isn't modeling any more than playing RR Tycoon or watching a train movie is modeling.

Digitally enhanced photos are fakery, plain and simple. Understand - I'm not saying folks shouldn't do that sort of thing. If photo manipulation is their thing, it isn't my place to say they shouldn't. But if a magazine publishes digitally altered photos, they should make clear which photos are doctored, and in what way they were doctored.

I'm paying for a modeling magazine, not a digital manipulation magazine. So if there's more than a little bit of it, I'll take my dollars elsewhere.

Just my opinion.
How about a photo from a diesel cab that does not involve digital manipulation? This one of mine was taken with a film camera, no manipulation at all except converting it from a color print to a JPG:


I personally think the photo in MR is great, and it is clearly identified as being a digitally altered one. It is a different view of the layout being featured. Think of the diesel cab as a frame for the photo.
I agree Bob. Mostly, the pic was pure modeling. It just had the perspective chenged for effect. Either way, it was an eye pleasing pic.
Well, as far as I'm concerned, I thought it was great. When I read how it was done it didn't bother me a bit. When someones modeling is so good that you really can't tell it's a model, that's pretty darned good work regardless of how it is shown. In the magazines defense, they plainly stated it was a composite photograph. My only gripe is I didn't think to do it first... :)
Maybe I should clarify myself.

My comments were in a more general vein than specific to the photo in question, and I should have said that. You can say that digitally "framing" an otherwise unretouched shot with the frame of a loco window is just a fancy cropping of the subject, and I would be loathe to dispute that. What I was referring to is more along the lines of "well, I'll just take the plastic shine off that wall," or "I'll just add a telephone pole over here" or something like that.

MR recently published a layout visit where the sky was digitally added to ALL the photos in the spread which should have a sky. THAT'S the sort of fakery to which I really object. It's a very short step from that to adding a desired-but-not-modeled mountain range, then some buildings, then some details, then.....

Well, heck. I could just sit a loco on the table and take a photo, then fake in everything else around it, right? Gee, by the time we're done adding to the scene, I might look like the world's greatest model railroader!!!

Edit - I just went back and looked at the "photo" again - that's a lot more than just fancy cropping. While it looks very nice, the only reason it's even marginally acceptable in Model Railroader is that the caption explains that it's a phonyed-up shot.

Still, if they keep publishing this kind of imaginary stuff, I'll be letting my subscription lapse for the first time in over 25 years. STICK TO SHOWING REAL PHOTOS!
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It appears that MR is aiming for perfection in all of their photos these days. Is there anyone here who remembers the old black and white Trackside Photos of 20-25 years ago? They would often show photos of models under construction, layouts with wood showing, etc. Everything wasn't absolutely perfect as it is today.

Recent Trackside Photos, including those in the current MR, are most often by the photographers they assign to shoot layouts - Paul Dolkos and Lou Sassi. In other words, "readers don't bother to send in your own photos, we'll use work from photographers whom we pay to do the shooting". Doesn't leave much for aspiring model photographers.

Kalmbach's Fine Scale Miniatures devotes 4-6 pages to readers' photos. It's too bad MR cannot (or will not) use more submitted photos. My first published photo was a Trackside Photo too many years ago, but I doubt if any newcomers will have such good fortune.
Railphotog said:
It appears that MR is aiming for perfection in all of their photos these days. Is there anyone here who remembers the old black and white Trackside Photos of 20-25 years ago? They would often show photos of models under construction, layouts with wood showing, etc. Everything wasn't absolutely perfect as it is today.

Bob, I started noticing that 18 months ago - which is what led to many of my frustrated postings over at, regarding the difficulty of getting published in MR. The bar has been raised so much higher than it's ever been that I've pretty much decided not to bother with Kalmbach anymore. But unlike the photographers of 20 years ago, I have the internet and my own websites to publish on right now - I'll just have to be contented with that.
I havn't read RMC or ModelRailroading for a while, maybe we should push our business over there?
First some after photos:

Here is a sort of un-enhanced, under construction before shot:

I think it is ok to enhance photos as long as there isn't an attempt to pass it off as original. If you want to go all out with digital modeling there is MSTS. Just think, a layout only limited only by your hard drive space. I really enjoyed Gary Hoovers Cajon Pass with the photoshopped sky. It sure beats looking at someone's dusty floor joists. Most of us probably look at our trains as being bigger than just the physical size of our layouts. Who hasn't put their eye down next to the track to watch a train roll by and imagined being trackside on a sunny day, camera in hand? The scenery in my photos is nearly all the scenery I have right now and I think a little background enhancement makes the most of it. I would much rather look at the photos in the link above than all the clutter in the background of the second photo. BTW, if anyone is interested I could take a photo of the dusty floor joists.

I was just re-reading some of the previous replies and realized at first I misunderstood Bob's comment "readers don't bother to send in your own photos, we'll use work from photographers whom we pay to do the shooting". I thought he meant "because no one sends us photos we will use our own". I agree, the bar is set much higher than years past but that is no excuse so fill those gaps under the buildings and take some photos!

Paul in moonlit Seattle
Hmmm ... putting digitally enhanced photos in a magazine is enough to make you drop the magazine? What about layout videos that dub in prototype sounds? Boycott the video producer for doing such a thing?

While I can understand this viewpoint if the images are passed off as real, but digital modification is just the latest in a bag of tricks that have been used for a long time to enhance a model scene. Other tricks used in the past include:

- Real photo backdrops pasted behind a model scene
- Smoke added to steam locos in the darkroom later
- Photos of real interiors stuck inside a model to make interior look more real
- Photo transfered to decal and put on model to make look more real
- Prototype sounds recorded and played by model to make it sound more real

The list goes on and on. Model Railroading is not only modeling, it's also art, and any creative process that adds to the artform should be acceptable.

I believe there's room in the hobby for *both* the artists and the modelers. :)
Joe, with the exception of smoke added in a darkroom (which I also think is fakery), all the "tricks" you've listed have one thing in common - you can (in theory) go look at the scene in person and see what you see in the photo. In other words, what is in the photo is what is in real life.

In an "imaging" contest (I wouldn't call it a photography contest because the result isn't a photograph - it's at best a photo-realistic image), such manipulation is fine because the goal is the image, and it isn't necessarily an effort to capture reality on film (or on disk). When attempting to capure and present modeling reality, as in a layout feature story where the goal is to showcase a modeler's achievements, editing elements in or out of the photos (other than with simple cropping) is just lying to the viewer, even if you admit to it.

Sound is a completely different medium, and as such, comparisons between the visual and tha aural are problematic at best. A discussion on the use of sound may be interesting, but it really is a separate and not very related topic.

(As far as the "Model Railroading is art," that's not an argument that applies to digital fakery at all; it's merely a conceit held by some who participate in the hobby).
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MR's photography is slick and appealing to the masses, who I presume they think this will inspire them. It's also interesting that some of these layouts may well be unfinished elsewhere, but not shown. I know that the RMJ layouts, Bob Schleicher does take his own photos, and will show unfinished construction. Also, even if the layout photos don't show that, I've been on layout tours of that layout he shot, and have seen the Under Construction parts.

I remember once I commented that I'd like to see some 'less than perfect' layouts featured, because that was closer to my own sense of achieveable goals. I was hooted down, with the comments that pretty much focussed on the 'perfect layouts are inspirational'.

Well, sure, we all like the top athletes out there, but as a short, fat, slow, and aging person, they don't inspire me at all. It's the underdog that we can all relate to.


Your point about being able to actually see the "fakery" in person is well taken.

As to my use of the terms art and artist, I wasn't thinking in the high-browed sense you reference. I was thinking more in the sense of what looks "cool" to the eye as opposed to what takes a lot of modeling craftsmanship.

Still, I'm somewhat amused by the notion that doing things digitally becomes "fakery" that's some how illegitimate. To me, it's all simulation and illusion -- the addition of digital means is simply the latest in the bag of illusion tricks for presenting our model images.

If we have a problem with "fake" then maybe we should be using real steel to build our locos and make sure they use real steam and diesel to power them? To me, it's all fakery -- that's why it's called MODEL railroading.

Those that imply that digital image manipulation does not take skill and is not a legitimate form of creating a modeling simulation is its own form of high-browed reasoning, seems to me.
Hi all. I can certainly see both sides of this issue. Everyone has some good points. While the discussion here is certainly civil, I didn't intend for there to be any controversy over this thread. I simply thought it was a cool pic that included great digital enhancement AND super modeling. Either way, I sure enjoyed the photo. Isn't that what this is all about?

Yes, that's the root of it for me ... if you can combine prototype and modeling elements digitally in the same image and they result in a seamless impressive image, that has to say the most about the modeling skill. The digital part isn't really the big factor when the integration looks *seamless*.
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